Remember [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

It’s taken some time but Kerri has, at last, taught me a hard-to-learn-lesson: when I am to listen versus when I am to listen and give voice to a thought (sometimes known as “Offer advice”).

The challenge: the cues are not readily apparent. To misread the cue is to unleash certain havoc.

This, in a nutshell, is what I’ve learned: In 100% of the cases, listen and nod. Say nothing that is not the verbal equivalent of a nod. These moments that seem-to-my-eyes like problems-to-be-solved are never what they appear.

Boil the nutshell down to its essence: nothing needs solving. There are no solutions required so don’t offer any. There are only four words that are universally useful. It. Will. Be. Okay. (variation: We. Can. Do. It) (Bonus word: Together).

Now, if only I’d remember my hard-learned-lesson when I most need it. Remembering is not so easy.

read Kerri’s blogpost about ZEN-GEN!

smack-dab. © 2022 kerrianddavid.com

Re-Connect [on Merely A Thought Monday]

The latest addition to my “Terms in this Unknown Land” document is TL;DR. Too-Long-Didn’t-Read. I laughed aloud when I heard this new acronym in a meeting. If there is a sign of our times, an identifying marker of our era, it is this: TL;DR.

We communicate through text and emoji. Chat. Twitter is a thing because it mandates brevity. Scrolling the news app is a study in cramming the full story into a brief headline. Marketers have mastered the 5 second ad. Businesses are liberal in their use of “narrative” and “story” but have no time to actually hear one. A short synopsis will have to do. Get to the point.

As a member of my culture I find that I scan more than I read. If I can find it on Youtube, I’d rather watch it than read about it. When I began writing blogposts ten years ago, the “rule” was 800 words or less. The rule has adjusted with our attention spans and now the target is between 400 and 600 words. Often, when I receive links to articles, they come complete with an estimate of how many minutes are required to read them. Yesterday, I read advice from a marketing guru that suggested we restrict paragraphs to two sentences or less; more than two sentences is a red flag: too much information. Less than two sentences is…a sentence.

So much information is coming at us all the time, we have no time or thought-space to take it all in. I wonder if we can discern relevance from dreck. A quick look at our leaders leaves me with a resounding “No!” Relevance is lost in the dreck and, since they represent us, they are us, our information inundation has rendered our attention spans tiny and blunted our acuity. We are awash in information while wisdom has gone missing.

Each week I attend meetings; the central concern is explicitly or implicitly about helping people connect. It reminds me of the conversations I heard in graduate school: while living in a city of a million people, the concern was about how to create community. So many people. So little community.

I ponder these things every day. With our ubiquitous technology, we couldn’t be more connected. Through social media, I know what people had for dinner or what cute thing the kids said. I receive advertising that confirms my devices are listening to me. Yesterday, for-the-hell-of-it, I said, “Machu Picchu.” Today I am awash in travel ads for Peru.

We are connected. Connection to everything is connection to nothing. Relevance is hard to discern in a tsunami of information masking as connectivity.

Relationships – real relationships – take time. Values cannot be communicated in a text. They must be demonstrated and deeply rooted in lived narrative. Stories that carry relevance cannot be well-told in synopsis. Opinions are so easy to tweet. Dreck is easy to fling. It is not the capacity to share that we lose in the crush. It is not connection. It’s the capacity to be present. With presence comes the capacity to listen. Presence is not in a hurry to be some other place.

Rich connectivity requires more than quick consumption of information. Sharing, real sharing, the kind beyond pressing a “send” button, is a two-way street between people who have the time to invest in each other. Once, it was called relationship.

TM;CL. Too much. Can’t listen.

read Kerri’s blogpost about TL;DR

Blur The I [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

We capture quotes all week. Some we see. Some we hear. Some find their way into the Melange. Most do not. We usually note where we heard or found the quote so we remember the context. It’s a practice. It’s not as if we are perpetually eavesdropping on conversations. We’ve simply tuned ourselves to immediately write the amazing words and phrases that catch our attention.

A common phrase is mind-over-matter. Athletes and actors and dancers are conditioned to ignore the limits of their bodies. To keep going. The mind as master over body. I loved this quote because it is the flip side. The mind, the “I”, wanted to stop but the body did not listen. It kept going.

Lately I’ve been reading about – so, paying attention to – the false separations that language necessitates: Mind and body are spoken of, thought of, as separate things. And, the question is this: where does one begin and the other end? Mind over matter. Body did not listen. I made myself do it. Once you start listening for it, it is ubiquitous. Exactly where is the line between “I” and “myself”? When your toe is in pain, isn’t your whole body is in pain? Follow your gut. What does your heart say?

When Dogga gets excited, his little body bounces. He runs in circles. He has to work hard to sit still. Say, “Do you want to go…” and he’s bouncing before the words “on errands?” reach his ears. He knows he won’t actually go on errands until he first sits on the rug. Eventually, he bounces his way into compliance. Control follows unbridled enthusiasm. Control is a means to an end. Rug before errands. Sit before snack.

Dogga might say, while bouncing enthusiastically, “I wanted to stop but my body kept going!”but I doubt it. Given his unified happy spirit, I’m certain the phrase would come out of his muzzle this way: I wanted to stop but I kept going. Watching him is like reading the I-Ching: no separation.

read Kerri’s blogpost about I AND BODY

Disagree [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Months later, she* is still angry with me. I asked her to “stop blowing me off.”

Some things need to be discussed and necessarily require entertaining differing points of view. Finding middle ground or considering alternate possibilities requires hearing what others have to say – and giving others the courtesy of hearing what you have to say. Her standard phrase of choice, when faced with an opinion or idea not her own, is this: “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.”

No. I don’t agree to disagree. Especially at the onset of a dialogue. I want to talk about it. I want to hear what you have to say and more importantly why you hold your point of view. I won’t agree to not hearing or being heard.

Opposing points of view, differing opinions, need not be conflicting. They can be highly generative. Mind opening. Thought provoking. “I’ve never thought of that,” is an expression that results when considering a different point of view. In ideal, our nation is based on the notion of two opposing points-of-view extending to each other the courtesy of listening and considering possibilities not yet seen. Yep. And, we are witness to what happens when one side (or the other) rejects the basic premise. Dismissiveness is the strategy of an empty suit.

Why assume conflict?

She followed “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree,” with the real statement, her actual aim: “You do what you want. I’m going to do what I’ve always done and follow my plan.” In other words, she had no intention of hearing anything that did not support her plan. Why, then, I wondered, did she invite conversation?

When the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. When the only door you have is a closed door, then every knock sounds like an intruder.

I laughed aloud when I read Bill Murphy’s article in Inc. Magazine about his pet-peeve phrase: “Look, I get it.” He writes, ‘”Look, I get it,'” is almost always inherently untrue…Even worse for our purposes, it’s woefully ineffective.”

It’s dismissive. Just as is “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.” The agreement she wanted was for me to agree to be dismissed. An agreement of silence. Why would I – or anyone – agree to that?

[* “She” is not Kerri. We hold each other in high esteem. It’s why the sign in our kitchen reads, “You are my favorite pain-in-the-ass.” We welcome our differing perspectives. Neither one of us dismisses the other nor tolerates being dismissed.]

read Kerri’s blog post about “LOOK, I GET IT.”

Hold Hands And Listen [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

These words, posed as polar opposites, come from the world of relationship advice. The recommendation is to establish clarity. Before you get into trouble, define whether your mate’s need is to be heard or to hear advice, to receive solace or solutions. Offering a solution when the need is solace is not recommended. Knowing my snap-dedication to solving-her-every-need, Kerri will often cut me off at the pass with, “I just need you to listen.” My lending-an-ear is often the only thing she really needs.

I’ve always been a good listener but it is only recently that I’ve discovered that I cannot solve anything for anyone. I cannot spare anyone the necessity of walking through their life lessons. The solving is not mine to do. The discoveries are not mine to make. This comes as a great awakening to my third-child-in-the-family-peacekeeper-identity. It also comes as a great relief. Peacekeeping, as a role assignment, is impossible. It’s akin to herding cats. It’s best to let each cat find peace in its own way. In sitting still, in surrendering the impossible task, my peace, like a magic castle, appeared.

A few years ago, a friend, sensitive to Kerri’s grief, offered her this truism-nugget: there’s only one way to go through it and that is to go through it. Trying to spare or minimize her grief would be to rob her of the depths of her love. Feel the depths. Meet the monster that lives there. Emerge transformed or at least informed. It is how we come to fully know ourselves.

We are learning to walk together with no need to solve. I am learning to hold hands and listen. The walking together, the holding of hands, is essential. The words I spin around our challenges are rarely meaningful and never as necessary as attending to the simple essential of quiet presence.

read Kerri’s blog post about COMFORT OR SOLUTIONS

Pause And Listen [on KS Friday]

A pause. Unspecified length. Fermata. It reads like poetry. I, a consummate non-musician, am learning and loving new musical terms.

We live in a world of noise. Too much noise. Too much talking. Too many screamers competing for our shrinking attention spans.

So much noise blocks access to the still small voice, the soul voice. That whisper-voice of inner truth never shouts. It is very hard to hear things-of-depth in a world so enamored with the superficial, so consumed by the marketing-moment. The breaking news. The voguish sale. The hip. The hop. The latest tweet. The newest outrage. Tik-Tok, Facebook, Instagram, spin-your-noggin-round-and-round.

This morning I’ve heard and read a thought surfing atop all the noise-feeds: we have to find a shared truth. Without it, we will enter the ranks of the failed states, if we are not there already.

Standing on the streets shouting at each other is guaranteed to further gape-our-void. Running deeper into fact-less-“news”-bubbles that spit blather 24/7 will send us deeper and deeper into banana-republic-status.

Our hope of unity lies in the fermata. The pause of unspecified length. Quiet.

It is from the silence that we might recognize that shared truth never pops out of its hole in the middle of a street fight. Truth stays clear of cacophony. It is in the silence that we have a slight prayer of hearing some truth.* We’ll know when we’re ready to share truth again when, out of the shared silence, we begin our conversation with some form of this simple question: “What did you hear?”

[*this highly idealistic and slightly naive thought assumes the restoration of respect for facts & science in all parties, a shared baseline for all inner-listeners]

read Kerri’s blog post on FERMATA

find all of Kerri’s albums on iTunes

Listen To The Hatter [on Flawed Wednesday]

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“I don’t think…”

“Then you shouldn’t talk!” said the Hatter

~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

The entire world is down the rabbit hole though, we citizens of the U.S.A., have fallen into a deeper darker hole. We’ve found a way-out-wacky cast of characters at the helm that challenge in strangeness the inhabitants of Wonderland. Truth, as it turns out, is much stranger than fiction.

Sometimes out of the mouth of madness comes a whisper of truth. If you do not first think, you should probably not talk. The Hatter’s advice is sage.

For kicks, I asked the mystic Google this question: What did Alice learn in Wonderland? It’s been a few years since I held her hand and went down the rabbit hole.

Alice learned that bullies are really two-dimensional and ultimately vapid. The pandemic is exposing our very own Queen of Hearts, a man who, like the Queen, gets his excitement from belittling others. Diminishing others is really the only card in a bully’s  deck. Here we are.

Alice learned that a bully is powerless without the support of minions. So, to garner support, a healthy cadre of minions must also agree to be flat and loud but remain thought-free. As it turns out, minions are powerless without a bully. It’s a loop. Well. Here we are.

The Caterpillar asks Alice, “Who are you?” She has no answer. She finds herself in a wholly strange world. The rules of life as she understands them no longer apply.  It is madness everywhere she looks. Yup. Here we are.

Her experiences with the madness expose who she is. That is my favorite of Alice’s lessons. Our madness is also exposing many things about us. It’s revealed the bully. It has called forward the courageous. It has uncovered the minions. It lays bare the deep cracks in our foundation. And, perhaps, to take some advice from the Hatter, since the bully and his crew has undermined science, morality, ethic, facts, jurisprudence, and is taking partisan bites from the constitution, it might be time for us to start thinking.

“Hold your tongue!” said the Queen, turning purple.

“I won’t,” said Alice.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about Mouth Shut

 

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Heed The Thwack [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Have a Drink

It occurs to me now that Marilyn J. was thwacking me on the back of the head. In her comment about my post, AGREE TO DISAGREE, she mirrored back to me something I have taught: without an antagonist there is no story. Without an obstacle there is nothing to drive the story forward. Marilyn was reminding me of two things. First,  the antagonists in my story were giving me fuel for forward movement. Second, that in my post, I was pushing against what I don’t like. She was reminding me that productive movement is toward what I wish to create rather than resisting what I do not want.

We have a new phrase in our lexicon though it feels ancient: social distancing. In thinking about what Marilyn wrote to me I have decided the real social distancing that we are experiencing has less to do with stay at home orders or six feet of space or wearing masks; it is about the distance between the world inhabited by the red and the world inhabited by the blue. They are, I believe, no longer merely divided, they are distinctly separate realities. What makes sense in one reality looks like utter nonsense in the other.

I just took a dive into quotes by E.O. Wilson. He wrote something about brilliant enemies and I wanted to find it: “Without a trace of irony I can say that I have been blessed with brilliant enemies. I owe them a great debt, because they redoubled my energies and drove me in new directions.”

This is point of Marilyn’s head thwack. Redouble your energies. There is no denying that my daily disbelief at the malignant narcissist and his propaganda machine is driving me in new and as yet unknown directions. It has filled me with fear for my family and friends. It is also filling me with energy and it is up to me to live what I believe and use my redoubled energy to move toward what I desire to create rather than become “the thing hate:” an angry absolutist incapable of listening. A resister. An energy eddy.

Or, as Saul-the-Tai-Chi-Master so often reminded me, “Look beyond the obstacle to the field of possibilities.” That is where all of life is truly found.

[note: if you want to feel good about humanity or just need some perspective in the time of pandemic, Google quotes by E.O. Wilson. Or, better yet, since we are in this for a while read one of his books].

 

read Kerri’s blog post on this NOT SO FLAWED WEDNESDAY

 

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Decide To See [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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When you come to our house, pay attention to the small things. You will find many, many, many hearts. Heart shaped rocks, heart shaped leaves, shells that are the shape of a heart. This is not an accident. It’s also not a collection of “things” – like a collection of shot glasses or figurines. No, it is altogether different.

Kerri looks for hearts. Often on our walks she will gasp, pull out her camera and take a picture. I know that she has seen another heart. Usually, she engages with it and walks on. Sometimes she picks up the heart and it comes home with us.

To be clear: she doesn’t buy hearts from the store. She is not a collector of heart shapes. Kerri looks for hearts. When we are out in public she will gasp and move toward someone, striking up a conversation. Soon there is laughter; always there is a story. Usually, she engages with the heart and walks on. Sometimes she picks up the heart and  it is in our life forever.

Since seeing the recent Mr. Rogers movie, we’ve been talking a lot about intentional thinking, about focus placement. We’ve been talking about what we look for when we go out into the world – what we decide to see. Everyone decides what they see but very few people know that they have that decision. Everyone decides what they think but very few people know that they have that decision. It’s what made Mr. Rogers so special. He knew he  had decisions and he talked about it with children. Children are capable of listening.

It’s very easy to see the gunk. The dark is an easy choice; fear makes it so. It takes some intention to see the light.  Hearts are always present but they require some attention and resolve to see. They ask that we look beyond the superficial gunk to see the heart-substance. That’s why Kerri picks them up and plants them around our home. It’s a practice. She’s built a practice of seeing the hearts. She goes into each day looking for the hearts.

It turns out that hearts are everywhere. You can see them, too, if you decide to see them.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HEARTS

 

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Make A Small Gesture [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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We’ve built our towering life together on the small gesture. Coffee in bed. A note stashed in a suitcase to be found when far away from home. We hold hands everywhere we go. When getting ready for bed, the first one in the bathroom always puts toothpaste on both brushes. Little kindnesses. The smallest of signals and courtesies that say nothing more and nothing less than, “You matter most of all.”

Looking for the grand plan that will change the world or, better, trying to be the grand plan, often blinds us to the real necessity of the moment. We look for the mountain that needs to be moved and miss the hand that needs to be held.

My younger, revolutionary self screams, “WHAT?! WE NEED TO PUSH BACK! WE NEED TO FIGHT THE SYSTEM!! WE NEED TO CHANGE THE WORLD!!! THIS SMALL-MOMENT STUFF IS THE CRAP-THINKING OF AN OLD PERSON! WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU?!!!!

I’ve been more changed by a smile from across the room than by all the agitation that I’ve engendered across the span of my life. I have initiated more change by holding my tongue than by wagging it. Listening, I’ve learned, is a most powerful small gesture.

If I am old (I don’t feel old), if I have learned anything, then I have learned that real love is not noisy or flashy or grand. It is quiet. It steps behind you when you are frightened, puts its hand on your back and whispers, “I’ve made you a toothbrush.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SMALL GESTURES

 

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